United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
DAVID PROCTOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Rhonda Horn (“Plaintiff”) brings this action
pursuant to Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act
(“the Act”), seeking review of the decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security (“the
Commissioner”) denying her claim for a period of
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and
supplemental security income (“SSI”).
See 42 U.S.C. Â§Â§ 405(g), 1383(c). Based on this
court's review of the record and the briefs submitted by
the parties, the court finds that the decision of the
Commissioner is due to be affirmed.
filed her application for DIB on March 13, 2015 and SSI on
March 24, 2015, alleging a disability onset date of February
28, 2015. (R. 146, 148). The Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) denied the initial request for DIB and
SSI on August 12, 2015. (R. 56, 70). Plaintiff thereafter
requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) (R. 88), and ALJ Emilie Kraft held a
hearing on June 28, 2017. (R. 28). In her decision dated
September 19, 2017, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not
under a disability within the meaning of Sections 216(i),
223(d), or 1614(a)(3)(A) of the Social Security Act. (R. 20).
Because the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
for review on April 21, 2018, which was the final decision of
the Commissioner (R. 1-3), the Commissioner's decision is
now a proper subject for this court's appellate review.
Statement of Facts
who was born on August 11, 1970, was 44-years-old when she
filed her request for DIB/SSI, and 47 at the time of the
ALJ's decision. (R. 20, 44). After completing the tenth
grade, Plaintiff held four relevant jobs over a fifteen year
period: “fast food manager training, ” forklift
operator, warehouse worker, and hand packager. (R. 31, 38,
40). The ALJ found that Plaintiff suffers from several severe
impairments: degenerative disc disease, rheumatoid arthritis,
neuropathy, and fibromyalgia. (R. 13).
only issue on review in this case is whether the ALJ properly
evaluated Plaintiff's complaints of pain. (Pl.'s
Mem., Doc. # 10 at 4). Plaintiff first complained of pain in
her extremities in late December 2014 at the Emergency
Department of Shelby Baptist Medical Center. (R. 343). At
that visit, Plaintiff reported a pain score of six on a
ten-point scale. (R. 343). In the review of systems, the
physician found that Plaintiff was positive for myalgias and
arthralgias in her musculoskeletal system, but that Plaintiff
maintained a normal range of motion. (R. 343-44). Over the
next three years until her final visit in the medical record
on April 29, 2017, Plaintiff sought frequent medical
treatment for her back and extremity pain resulting from
rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. (See e.g., R.
322, 335, 421, 459, 475, 489). While at times Plaintiff
described her pain as severe (R. 323, 330, 371, 392, 479,
512), during other visits, Plaintiff characterized the pain
as mild or moderate. (R. 336, 410, 425, 432, 442, 475, 489).
Despite a limited range of motion at one previous doctor
visit (R. 371), numerous visits, including Plaintiff's
most recent exam on record, demonstrate that Plaintiff has a
normal range of motion in her musculoskeletal system. (R.
330, 336, 344, 512).
her hearing with the ALJ, Plaintiff reported that she
experiences flare-ups that cause severe pain. (R. 32). This
severe pain creates four “bad” days in a week and
twenty-five “bad” days in a month, according to
Plaintiff. (R. 32-33). Despite this pain, Plaintiff is able
to do some light activities around the house, such as
cleaning and cooking, in addition to going grocery shopping
with her daughter. (R. 33). However, Plaintiff stated that
she has to lie down four hours during the day to relieve her
pain. (R. 34). Plaintiff also told the ALJ that her
medications “help [her] some, ” which is
consistent with Plaintiff's recent medical record where
she explained that her fibromyalgia is “doing much
better” and that she is “pleased with her current
regimen.” (R. 35, 470, 475).
under the Act is determined under a five-step test. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520. First, the ALJ must determine whether the
claimant is engaging in substantial gainful activity. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i). “Substantial work
activity” involves significant physical or mental
activities, and “gainful work activity” is work
that is done for pay or profit. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1572. If
the ALJ finds that the claimant engages in substantial
gainful activity, then the claimant cannot claim disability.
20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b).
the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has a medically
determinable impairment or a combination of medical
impairments that significantly limits the claimant's
ability to perform basic work activities. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(ii). Absent such impairment, the claimant may
not claim disability. Id.
the ALJ must determine whether the claimant's impairment
meets or medically equals the criteria of an impairment
listed in 20 C.F.R. § 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525,
404.1526. When the claimant meets these criteria, the ALJ
will find that the claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §
claimant does not fulfill the requirements necessary to be
declared disabled under the third step, the ALJ may still
hold that the claimant is disabled after the next two steps
of the analysis. The ALJ must first determine the
claimant's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”), which refers to the claimant's
ability to work despite her impairments. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(e). Then, in the fourth step, the ALJ evaluates
whether the claimant has the RFC to perform past relevant
work. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iv). If the ALJ finds
that the claimant is capable of performing past relevant
work, then the claimant is deemed not disabled. Id.
On the other hand, if the ALJ finds the claimant unable to
perform past relevant work, then the analysis proceeds to the
final step. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(v).
last portion of the test, the ALJ must decide whether the
claimant is able to perform any other work commensurate with
her RFC, age, education, and work experience. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(g). Here, the burden of proof shifts from the
claimant to the Commissioner to prove the existence, in
significant numbers, of jobs in the national economy that the